Bridging the player-coach gap

Equipment manager Jason Jones, aka “Jonesy,” does more than sort equipment

Jones joined the men’s hockey program in 2005.
Jones joined the men’s hockey program in 2005.
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Men’s hockey head coach Brett Gibson is long-time friends with equipment manager Jason Jones (above).
Men’s hockey head coach Brett Gibson is long-time friends with equipment manager Jason Jones (above).
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Jason Jones plays his part for the love of the game.

The men’s hockey equipment manager, nicknamed by the team as “Jonesy,” is instrumental in doing the dirty work — assuring the team’s prepared for every practice, home game and road trip.

He’s invaluable and a “go-between,” who’s able to have relationships with players on a more personal level, according to head coach Brett Gibson.

“It’s hard sometimes for players to talk about the everyday things that go on in life, and Jonesy’s the guy who [does that],” Gibson said. “He’s a support valve.”

Former Gaels captain Jon Lawrance became an assistant coach this year, shifting his relationship with his former teammates.

“I’m still good friends with a lot of [the players], but there’s still a boundary,” Lawrance said, leaving Jonesy as the go-to for player support.

“As coaches, you don’t discuss things as openly with players as Jonesy might,” he said.

During games, Jones is upbeat behind the bench in contrast to the emotional Gibson. He stands next to the backup goaltender, offering encouraging one-liners: “C’mon boys, get hungry here.”

“I wouldn’t say [I’m a] psychiatrist, but I’m always there for the guys if they need to vent or whatever, because coaches have better things to do sometimes,” Jones said.

In what’s been a turbulent year for the seventh-place Gaels, his positive influence and approachability have made him a favourite among the skaters.

He describes his entrance into the role as “a fluke.”

Jones was the equipment manager for the Junior B Gananoque Islanders during Gibson’s rookie season, where he worked for 12 years. He joined the Gaels in 2005 when Gibson became assistant coach. “I came up one time with [Gibson] for a practice and we were sitting around talking after the practice was over,” Jones said. “[Head coach] Kirk [Muller] approached me and asked if I’d be interested in joining the team and doing the equipment duties.

“I thought what the heck, why not. It’s something different — move up a little bit, different calibre hockey, different age group.”

The former player hung up his skates after Pee Wee, maintaining his “hockey fix” through refereeing and other work until he found permanent work with Gibson.

Today, he plays winger on two men’s league teams, one in Kingston and one in Gananoque.

“Any chance I can get on the ice, I try to get out,” Jones said.

A construction worker by day, Jones is a volunteer and receives no pay for his work with the Gaels, but receives travel compensation.

“For the most part I do it because I enjoy being at the rink,” Jones said. “I’ve always loved hockey from day one and it’s just a way to stay involved in the game.”

— With files from Peter Morrow

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